What's this song [mentioned in the Maltese Falcon]?

In Dashiell Hammett’s THE MALTESE FALCON (published in 1930 in BLACK MASK magazine, in book form the following year) there are a number of oblique references.

In Sam Spade’s first encounter with Wilmer, the gunman employed by Caspar Gutman (the fat man), Spade says to the gunsel “Baumes rush?” This should have been printed as “Baume’s rush?”…it’s a ref to the then-attorney general of New York, a guy named Baume, who managed to have a lot of cheap hoods kicked out of the city on various charges in an effort to do a little spring cleaning. This later mutated to “bum’s rush.”

Neat, huh? Now, help me with one.

After the first night Spade and Brigid O’Shaughnessy spend together, Brigid comes “Out of the bathroom whistling EN CUBA.” In a later scene, when the principal characters are waiting for the Falcon to be delivered, Spade also “whistled two lines of EN CUBA.”

My buddy Joe Gores, the private eye writer and Hammett expert, asked for my help in identifying this song.

It’s indefinite enough that I can’t do it with search engines…does anyone out there know it? Or is anyone better at computer searches than I am (THAT’S not hard).


Sorry, hon, can’t help ya. It’s probably one of those short-lived tunes that was popular the month the story was written.

I always come out of the bathroom whistling “Cohen Owes Me Ninety-Seven Dollars,” myself.

Doesn’t ring a bell (or turn up on the ASCAP site).

Perhaps if you hummed a few bars…

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

Ike, I dunno about the song… but you’re friends with Joe Gores??? Wow!

Hi friends,
Uke, I called Tito Puente but had to leave a message. I’ll let you know when he gets back to me - hopefully he’ll know!

Mel, I just hope he’s more help than Mongo Santamaria was when I called HIM. That guy’s about as useless as tits on a bull.

Dex, help me solve the Riddle of the Song (although Flora’s probably right…the Casa Loma Orchestra was probably playing it on the radio the day Hammett was writing the chapter), and Gores and I will perform it at your home as a Singing Telegram.


Just a WAG.

Cole Porter (Irving Berlin? Am I already disqualified for not being sure?) wrote a song about going back to Cuba. I have a recent recording by K.T. Oslin. It’s a clever, funny, catchy song but I think the actual title is “I’ll See You in C-U-B-A”.

“And comb London’s teeming millions for him? Had we but world enough and time.”
Dorothy L. Sayers
Murder Must Advertise

Re-reading the OP I think I’m disqualified. The Cuba song I was thinking of talked about going to Cuba because it wasn’t “dry”. If The Maltese Falcon was written in 1930 then the timing’s no good. When did Prohibition actually begin? (“Hand’s up! We’re taking this thread EN CUBA!”)

“And comb London’s teeming millions for him? Had we but world enough and time.”
Dorothy L. Sayers
Murder Must Advertise

pluto, no, it would work…Prohibition took effect in 1920 (give or take a year) and wasn’t fully lifted until…1934?

“Since Roosevelt’s been elected
Moonshine liquor’s been corrected
We’ve got legal wine, whiskey, beer, and gin!”


Uke- if you get desperate, you might try calling S. Spade, listed in Yahoo people search, and living at the old Spade address. The fellow is a Falcon fan (okay, he’s obsessed) and might have the info - or will get it. You can email me if you need more info - RedQueen0916@cs.com

 Photons have mass!? I didn't even know they were  Catholic...

The 18th Amendment was passed in 1919 . . . and repealed in 1933.

The Maltese Falcon was originally published in 1929.

Irving Berlin’s “I’ll See You In C-U-B-A” was originally published in 1920, so I don’t think this is the tune you’re looking for.

I’ve spent a little time looking around, I’m not finding the tune . . .it’s a mystery. I HATE mysteries, this is driving me crazy.

Heck, for all we know, he made it up!

your humble TubaDiva

Super old thread I know but I’m reading The Maltese Falcon right now and was wondering the same thing. Here is a link saying that the song is a fabrication. There are a lot of songs talking about Cuba at the time but “En Cuba” isn’t real.


Thread moved from GQ to Cafe Society, and title edited to indicate subject.

Note that this thread was started in 1999.

General Questions Moderator

That sounds like a great song. Can I get a score or cite? Or is there an actual Cohen who owes you $97 and you are making up the tune viva voce?

NM. Berlin. Got it.

Evidence points to it being a real song.

  1. Here’s a copy of the movie script. Directions state that Spade whistles “En Cuba”
    The Maltese Falcon by jerry camps - Issuu
    (I just had a look at the film. He doesn’t whistle.)

  2. Here’s information about a stage version. It says that the music director Edmund Valesco “found the rare recordings of En Cuba” for the show.

Oh, the days before Wikipedia. How did we ever survive?

Origin of bum’s rush.

Comes from a bouncer throwing bums out of the establishment. Nothing to do with Baume, unless it’s a deliberate pun by the author.

From Wiki:

Yeah, but it’s a bum who writes writes that column.

Just kidding … I’m a slavish fan! Here and there are the only sites I pay to subscribe to. Well, the only ones I’d admit to.